Monday, August 1, 2011

Forward Thinking in West Bloomfield

Some folks in West Bloomfield think of themselves as 'upscale'.  I am sure some folks are, but the vast majority are not.  Just ordinary upper-middle class folks.  They should think of themselves as 'forward-thinking'.

I thought about the community this morning when I got my Oakland Press out of the mailbox and saw the opinion on the front page regarding televised meetings and then saw an article on 'outdoor burning' in Independence Township.

The editorial opinion dealt with our neighbor Bloomfield Township and the fact that they do not televise their Township Board meetings.  It has been a running joke that their meetings only last 15 minutes and nothing spectacular happens there.

I have stayed at West Bloomfield meetings until after one in the morning.  That's like working a 16 hour shift! (I used to come in at 9 am and meetings began at 7 pm - long day)  But from my first meeting in May, 1988, we have been televising our meetings.

Originally, the meetings were tape-delayed.  In those days many people would pack the meetings to see what was going on.  We held the meetings in the lower level of Fire Station #1 since the old Town Hall couldn't accommodate the crowd.  Local volunteers ran the cameras. 

When we moved to the new building on Walnut Lake Road in 1989, we had a small studio built upstairs.  Eventually the Board started telecasting 'live' and our numbers of 'in-house' viewers dropped, except for those 'really hot' issues.  But if we had been part of a rating survey, I am sure there are times we would have scored some big numbers.  Residents told me that we were the best show on TV.  The Monday Night Fights!

Yes, our Boards were contentious.  And sometimes not too nice.  But very popular.  And we got 'stuff' done.

Folks would hear something at home during the telecast and rush to the meeting to state their opinion.  I even did it once.  I was home cleaning my basement and watching a Parks and Recreation meeting.  (At one point they were so contentious they could not even approve the agenda.)  The group went into Executive Session without a vote.  I ran over to Town Hall in my 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' T-shirt and interrupted the meeting to tell them they 'goofed'.  It helps to keep an attorney at these meetings so someone is paying attention to the law.

In addition to telecasting meetings early-on, we were ahead of the curve and started curbside recycling back in the early 90's.  Previously, we had a drop-off location for recyclables, but I contended that more people would participate if they didn't have to store their items and then drive them across town.

After recycling, we tackled outdoor burning.  We had already formed an agreement for placing compostable materials at the curb.  So, in 1993 we banned outdoor burning.  It was not done without considerable angst from residents who complained that all their tree leaves on their large lots necessitated burning, not bagging.  And for every resident who wanted it allowed, there were those with severe allergies who wanted it banned.  In the interest of public health, outdoor burning in West Bloomfield was banned.  Two years later the State banned the practice in communities over 7,500 persons unless local ordinance allowed it. 

While I criticize West Bloomfield for many of their actions, I applaud those former Boards for thinking of the best interests of their residents health and access to information. 

And if you are interested in reading other West Bloomfield ordinances, check out the online Municipal Code.

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